Since March 23, when the Government in Mozambique closed all schools to avoid the spread of COVID-19, 22-year-old Misnia Zefanias Vilaculos has been struggling with a major challenge: “The most difficult part of this epidemic is not being able to be with my students, children are a source of happiness and creativity, I miss them so much,” says Misnia.
For the last year and a half, Misnia had been going every day to the Xtinza Cultural Center and to the ten elementary schools in the Nhamankulo slum, one of the poorest neighborhoods on the outskirts of Maputo, to read and interact with children. With a strong passion for literature, Misnia not only shares the importance of reading but also helps students understand the messages contained in each story and imagine a better world. Not willing to interrupt this incredible encounter, AVSI moved Misnia’s reading session to a virtual platform. Now, instead of visiting the cultural center and schools, she goes to the local radio station where she reads a fairytale and leaves a message or simple greeting.
The impact school closures may have on the future of these children, who are already living in precarious conditions, can be devastating. Since March, children cannot go to the place where they can socialize, a safe place. Schools in Mozambique are among the few places where children can find this since their own house does not always offer a safe environment.
The new activity is part of “Regeneração”, a project funded by the European Union and implemented by 33 NGOs, including AVSI, CESAL and Khandlelo. The main activities are the promotion of Human Rights and citizenship, with the active participation of residents in the regeneration of their neighborhood, the Nhamankulo slum. At least 1,500 children are beneficiaries of the project.
For children who don’t have access to radio, AVSI has offered two other alternatives. Some readings and learning activities have been broadcasted on National TV Sucesso. Parents can also call Misnia directly and pick a story. She will then call on the date and time chosen, and the family will be able to experience the storytelling.
Since we began this activity, the number of parents who want me to call and read for the family has increased,” says Misnia. “These reading moments fill us with joy and hope; they can alleviate our fear and concerns a little bit during this difficult moment.